DENVER (CBS4)- After losing at the ballot box and now the courts, environmentalists are turning to the state legislature for help regulating fracking in Colorado. Their latest loss came at the State Supreme Court.
A group of teenagers had asked state regulators to only issue drilling permits if they could prove new drilling would cause no harm to public safety or the environment. The court ruled the state has to balance the companies’ rights to drill.
Speaker of the House KC Becker says if the courts won’t change how drilling permits are issued, lawmakers will. She says they will rewrite state law to make health and safety bigger considerations.
“I think what we want to do is have regulators look at permitting in terms air quality, water quality, quality of life, noise, smells, pollution. I don’t think including health and safety as a primary concern is going to put oil and gas out of commission in Colorado.”
Sen. John Cooke of Weld County says he’s open to some change.
“I don’t mind some consideration of health safety, but we have to be reasonable about it, and I think the oil and gas industry has been taking air samples all around where they drill and where they have their wells. They do water samples that they turn into state.”
He says while Republicans can’t stop oil and gas bills alone, they only need two Democrats in the Senate to join them.
“I’m hoping obviously that we are the backstop against any of these really bad bills. You just never know how much pressure leadership put on their own members.”
Becker says she will not be pushing one of the most controversial issues around drilling — increased setbacks. The first state lawmaker to support a ballot measure increasing setbacks, Becker now says a one-size-fits-all approach is not the way to go. But she says the issue will likely come up and she will vote for it if it does.
CBS4 obtained the 2019 legislative playbook for leading environmental groups in Colorado and it lists a couple dozen bills and sponsors for half of them.
Among the most far-reaching bills is one to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent in Colorado in the next 10 years, something that analysts say is roughly equal to all of the emissions from power plants and every car and truck in Colorado today.